AMN Reviews: Richard Pinhas & Barry Cleveland (feat. Michael Manring & Celso Alberti) – Mu (2016; Cuneiform Records)

Over the last 40 years, guitarist Richard Pinhas has left a varied trail of recordings, from the progressive rock of Heldon, to his early synth-laden solo efforts, to more recent experimental partnerships with Merzbow, Wolf EyesPeter FrohmaderPascal Comelade, and others. Cuneiform Records, which has released or re-released the majority of Pinhas’s catalog, will be putting out his two latest collaborations today. Read our review of the first here. Below, we discuss the second.

Fellow guitarist extraordinaire Barry Cleveland does not record often, but when he does it is worth paying attention. In his first new effort since 2010’s Hologramatron (an avant-rock protest album that is unfortunately even more relevant today than it was at its release), he teams with Pinhas, bassist Michael Manring and drummer Celso Alberti (the latter two played on Hologramatron) for a 50-minute, prog-leaning outing. Cleveland manages to take some of the harder edges off of Pinhas’s style, as evidenced by the first track, Forgotten Man. Therein, Pinhas and Cleveland combine to form catchy, yet complex, themes, over Eastern-style drumming.

The centerpiece of the album is the 25-minute second track, I Wish I Could Talk In Technicolor, featuring Manring’s signature wandering bass lines and Pinhas’s loops. The initial few minutes provide atmosphere, until Alberti comes in with a varying rhythm while Pinhas and Cleveland focus on holding long tones to create textures. Eventually, the track evolves into open improvisation over roughly composed parts. Throughout, the textures are more prevalent than actual melodies. The final two offerings, Zen/Unzen and Parting Waves continue the logical progression of I Wish I Could Talk In Technicolor, focusing on processed guitar ambiance and carefully picked notes.

Mu is a unique release – familiar and strange at the same time, non-mainstream and appealing. It is a worthwhile and compelling addition to the both the Pinhas and Cleveland discographies.